Yes… I am actually talking about Ferdinand Leopold Oyono, the Cameroonian writer mostly known for his novels ‘Une Vie de Boy‘ (Houseboy), ‘Le Vieux Nègre et la Medaille‘ (The Old Man and the Medal), and ‘Chemin d’Europe‘ (Road to Europe). I must admit that I have only read the first two. I have decided to focus only on Oyono literary achievement, even though his literary career was quite short, and he also served as ambassador and minister under different presidents of Cameroon for over 40 years.
In his novels, Oyono uses satire to denounce the colonial system, the abuse Africans suffer in the hands of the European. Oyono writes ‘Une vie de boy‘ (Houseboy) as a diary, and casts a critical view on the relations between Africans and Europeans during the colonial era. The main actor is a young boy, who leaves his family where he was mistreated, and ends up with the French missionaries, and later on works as a houseboy for the ‘Commandant’; where he quickly becomes the center of querels between the Commandant and his wife, and is frequently beaten because of what he knows. In his second novel, ‘Le vieux nègre et la medaille‘ (The Old Man and the medal), Oyono evoked the deep sense of disillusionment felt by those Africans who were committed to the west, yet rejected by their colonial masters. Meka, the main protagonist, receives a medal for his services to the French colonial administration, for donating land to the French missionary church and above all for sending his two sons to the second world war where they are killed.
It is interesting that despite his short literary career, Oyono has managed to write two of the most important African novels depicting the relationship between the European colonizer, and the African colonized, a relationship made up of disillusionment, abuse, modernism, education, and cohabitation of two worlds where one is imposed on the other. The British newspaper The Guardian wrote a really good article saluting this great Cameroonian and African writer.